CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Mosquito Beach is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The coastal location was one of the few places where blacks who lived in the James Island area could go to enjoy the water during segregation. By late March or early April, a marker will be placed in the area, officially recognizing it as an important site in history.
During segregation in the south, blacks could not go to the same beaches as whites. So that meant popular spots like Folly Beach, were off limits to African Americans. Instead, blacks who lived on and near James Island, went to a place called Mosquito Beach. And the National Park Service has awarded a grant to preserve this area, as an important site from America's past
It doesn't look like much of a beach now. As a matter of fact, it's just a tidal creek with some pluff mud and the occasional appearance of ocean life. But in its heyday, Mosquito Beach was the place to be.
"I kind of liken it to a scene in the Color Purple, juke joint, in terms of people frying fish, serving food, you know kids playing in the water, some out fishing," retired National Park Service Ranger Michael Allen said.
Allen led the research project to preserve Mosquito Beach an as important site in civil rights history.
"Because it allowed African Americans to freely migrate, congregate and to be in the sacred safe space," Allen said.
Mosquito Beach is about 10 minutes from Folly Beach, but in the 50's during the Jim Crow era that kept blacks and whites separate in the south, blacks could not go to Folly. If they wanted to spread their wings and enjoy the beauty of the Lowcountry, they came here.
"Some of our interviews have shared with me that people had boat races up and down this little creek here that goes back to the Stono River. And so whatever recreational opportunities could be afforded to those who came out here, they took advantage of it."
If you're curious about the name Mosquito Beach, well the welcome sign at the road, featuring a mosquito relaxing in a hammock, says it all. The beach was known to have plenty of bugs.
Mosquito Beach is located in the Sol Legare community. This community was established for African Americans after the civil war. As a matter of fact, the famed Massachusetts 54th regiment marched through Sol Legare on their way to battle. You remember the Massachusetts 54th, their story was brought to light in the movie Glory.
And the black soldiers in the 54th, weren't the only ones fighting to change things across the south.
"There's one instance where a number of men left this physical space and went to Folly in an effort to integrate Folly," Allen said.
The old hotel shut down long ago, but a few other businesses are open. And before the memories of those who came here to have a good time fade away, the National Park Service wants to preserve the history of this important piece of property.
"No this is not the 16th Street Baptist church, this is not Ebenezer Baptist church, this is not Selma to Montgomery, but yet this is still a part of the civil rights experience of African Americans that lived here in the Lowcountry," Allen said.
If you’d like to know more about Mosquito Beach, the Historic Charleston Foundation is hosting a lecture. It takes place February 20, from 6 p.m. to 7pm at 40 East Bay Street in Charleston. Space is limited so to reserve your spot, click the link here.